By Rick Stedman
Isiah Thompson has always had the entrepreneurial spirit. A few years ago, while pursuing a degree in Wildland Management at California State University in Chico, he couldn’t wait to begin applying himself. Though just one semester shy of obtaining a degree, Isiah dropped out of school. “I was disillusioned with the curriculum and the educational process, and wanted more, so I quit school and began doing what I wanted,” he says. Starting his own business was one of his priorities.
In July 2019, Isiah officially joined the working world, opening Thompson Land Management, a forestry service business based in McArthur, California. He oversees a small, dedicated team of like-minded individuals who happen to fall into the 22-27 age range.
“It’s really hard finding young people who are interested in the environment and wilderness, but somehow I met the right people,” explains Isiah. “We are all similar in many ways as far as our devotion to this line of work, and when you have that kind of bonding, it’s easy to get things done. We are a family-like crew that share similar outlooks on life, which is why we get along so well.”
To describe Isiah as a go-getter would be an understatement. He has always had a love of the outdoors, enjoying hunting and fishing. An overall appreciation for nature is in his DNA and choosing his profession came naturally. “Since I was around 14, I’ve always had a good work ethic, while constantly looking to the future, and saving money as well,” he says.
When Isiah was trying to decide what direction to go with his life, he began talking with his uncle in New Mexico about possible work. To make a long story short, he agreed to help assist in his uncle’s business, a landscape-scale restoration business. Isiah subsequently formed his own company and agreed to certain terms with his uncle.
Isiah’s business focus was working to prevent future wildfires. To that end, Thompson Land Management relies on its LineBacker Brush Cutter, two T726 Tigercats, and Fecon Bull Hog skid steer mulching heads.
New Mexico Challenge
With his enthusiastic team augmented by quality equipment, Isiah and company headed to New Mexico to tackle a clearing project on 200 acres of land owned by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM). Though this plot of land was last treated 40 years ago, the desired end product was a lush forest of ponderosa pine. Prior to beginning the project, Isiah observed that the ponderosas were choked out by thick brush, mountain mahogany, oak trees, and juniper.
The plan was two-fold: First, clear out the brush, leaving behind a bed of mulched nutrients that would sustain the forest for years. Next, the BLM would burn the leftover debris to ensure that fires wouldn’t reach the canopy or nearby residential areas.
The plot of land had its own plans, however. With canyons and ravines sloping from 25 to 45 degrees and hidden rocks partially covered by the brush, the plot posed serious safety risks to Isiah’s crew and equipment.
When it came to actually mulching the material, Isiah relied on a Fecon Bull Hog BH120H mulching attachment with FGT rotor design and double carbide teeth.
The Bull Hog is built for extreme demands, with heavy-duty or severe-duty body construction that will stand the test of thousands of hours in the field. The variable 2-speed motor allows Isiah to adapt the rotor speed and torque to changing material loads ranging from fledgling mahogany and oak trees up to eight inches in diameter. In lighter material, like brush or fledgling trees, higher RPM means more bites per second, which produces finer, consistent material. With heavier material — those thick oak trees, for example — more rotor torque keeps the rotor turning when other heads might stall out.
The FGT rotor design has a smooth drum that draws less horsepower when mixing wood material into the top layer of dirt, while the spiral alignment makes it so that fewer tools are engaging the wood material at any given time.
Isiah does his best to steer clear of rocks and keeps a safe distance from visible ones in the field. When teeth do get damaged by rocks, a simple one-tool process allows him to pop out the old tooth and replace it with a new one. Isiah estimates he can get between 150 to 400 hours of productive time without breaking a tooth, depending on how rocky the terrain is.
The double carbide teeth work in a wide range of applications and can stand up to thick hardwoods or tangles of brush. Isiah estimates that with other types of teeth, he would have been constantly changing teeth on this project, leading to more downtime than uptime. When it comes time to change a carbide tooth on the Bull Hog, the carbide teeth are easy to replace by using a single Allen head bolt.
To keep his tools in working order, he prefers a little bit of downtime every day for maintenance to ensure he doesn’t have a bad chunk of downtime in the field. Every four hours, and also at the end of the day, he will freeze the entire machine to check fuel, air filters, teeth, and drum balance, making any tweaks necessary. Depending on the weather, terrain, and material, Isiah runs the equipment from 6 to 11 hours a day.
The LineBacker and Bull Hog combination ensures stability and safety, coupled with speed and efficient mulching, which according to Isiah is “the best of both worlds.” This perfect combination of speed and versatility allows him to clear in big open fields then move to steep, nasty terrain without changing equipment.
Working with the combination of the LineBacker and Bull Hog, Isiah and his team left behind a forest that will be safer and more environmentally sustainable for years to come — all in 25 days. This clearing also provided a wildfire buffer for the nearby residential neighborhoods.
In addition to forest thinning, Thompson Land Management takes on wildlife habitat enhancement and riparian restoration. “We have the capability and don’t want to limit ourselves in the variety of quality work we can provide,” says Isiah. “Also, we are not restricted in the agencies we’ll work with, including state, federal, tribal, and private lands on landscape-scale restoration projects,” he adds.
Except some interesting upcoming projects for Thompson Land Management.
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Isiah Thompson launched Thompson Land Management, a forestry service business based in McArthur, California. He oversees a small, dedicated team of like-minded individuals who happen to fall into the 22-27 age range.
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